The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland’s Diamond Stone still believes ‘we’re the No. 1 team in the country’

Maryland center Diamond Stone. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Maryland freshman Diamond Stone is a Milwaukee native through and through, but sometimes he will tell people that he also hails from Flint, Mich., where his father grew up. After navigating his emotional and sometimes contentious return to Wisconsin last weekend, Stone again had scores of family and friends in the stands for Tuesday night’s 70-67 loss at Michigan.

Maryland falls on road to Michigan in first Big Ten loss

He was greeted by the group in the tunnels of Crisler Arena after his 22-point, 11-rebound performance, which was highlighted by a personal 8-0 run that helped Maryland erase a 13-point deficit in the second half. On a night when Maryland had no answers for Michigan guard Zak Irvin (22 points), the Wolverines couldn’t counter against Maryland’s man-child, who was receiving a bulk of the offensive touches by the middle stages of the second half.

Maryland needed him to take over – the Terrapins received just 10 points from their starting back court Tuesday, including two from sophomore point guard Melo Trimble. While Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon tried to establish the pick and roll between Trimble and Stone in the final 20 minutes, Michigan began to ignore it all together, keying in on stopping the freshman center alone. Stone wasn’t deterred by Trimble’s off-night. He was simply playing basketball, he said, a brand that was brimming with confidence during and after Maryland’s first loss in 42 days.

“We have depth. No matter who is in the game, we’re the number one team in the country, no matter what,” Stone said, later adding: “I think every team in the country should think they’re the number one team in the country, so I think that’s our mindset and that’s how we play.”

Maryland remained at No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll earlier this week, but that was irrelevant by the time Michigan began its blistering pace on the offensive end on Tuesday night. The Wolverines, who rank second in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage, shot 47 percent from the field and made 12 three-pointers, forcing Turgeon to go small with his lineups for much of the night. Alongside Robert Carter Jr., who finished with 15 points, Turgeon relied on Stone to anchor the front court, which had the difficult task of closing out and chasing Michigan’s guards around the perimeter.

“It was just about matchups. … Michigan is a great team,” said Stone, who shot 7-of-11 from the field. “It was a game of runs.”

That part of Stone’s game remains a work in progress – he did protect the rim well at times Tuesday, including with a nasty block as Maryland was mounting a rally late in the second half. Stone said that Turgeon emphasized physical play on the interior during halftime, and it was apparent in the freshman’s approach in the second half.

He shot nine of Maryland’s 11 free throws, which was another area of concern for Turgeon. Ahead of Saturday’s game against Ohio State, he wants his team to be more aggressive and find ways to get to the free throw line more, following the example Stone set in the final 20 minutes Tuesday.

“Tonight my teammates looked for me, and I finished plays,” Stone said. “As long as we win that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how many points I had, we lost.”